September 28, 2015
macaron à l’ancienne
In the fall of 2011, I was given the task of standing in line outside the newly opened, Madison Avenue edition of Ladurée, the Parisian macaroon producer. A few years earlier, I had visited the company store in Lausanne with a chef friend. He came to Lausanne for a haircut and to purchase a box of macaroons as a gift for a recipient I no longer remember. The store was non‑descript on the outside but elegant once inside. The macaroons were expensive, even by Swiss standards. Now, five years later and five time zones away, I was in line with an expected wait of thirty minutes. At the end of my waiting time, I was allowed into the store to stand in another line. After an additional ten minutes, I was given the pleasure of buying a few macaroons at $2.80 each. If I wanted the macaroons in a box, there was an extra charge. When queried, the manager admitted that the macaroons were manufactured in a factory in Switzerland and shipped frozen to New York. After almost an hour, I had a package of eight macaroons to give to my nephew and his partner. Later that night, I had the opportunity to sample a few of the macaroons. I was not impressed.
In the late‑1990s, I visited the original source of macaroons, Maison des Sœurs Macarons in Nancy, France. The macaroons here are not your fancy, stylish cookies: no double sandwiches, no creamy filling, no smooth tops, and no pastel colors. Each cookie was a slightly different size. Their tops were cracked. Their flavor never varied. Their color was always brown. The only choice you made was the quantity. Even today, the cost of a single cookie is only about 75¢. Back then, the almond taste was pronounced. I’m sure it still is.
The recipe for the original Nancy‑style macaroon is a closely guarded secret, but a number of people have published what they believe to be an adequate approximation. The three common ingredients in all of these recipes are almond flour, sugar, and egg whites. Some recipes add vanilla extract. Some add some almond pieces. Some add candied citrus peel. I decided I wanted mine to be simple, but based on pistachio flour.
70 g (5⁄8 c)
70 g (scant 3⁄8 c)
finely granulated sugar
1 large (30 g)
egg white, whisked only enough to loosen
1. Pre‑heat oven to 175 °C (345 °F). Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet, and then place the baking sheet on another of the same size to create an insulated bottom.
2. Mix the pistachio flour and the sugar until the combination is homogenous. Incorporate the flour‑sugar mixture with the egg whites. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 5‑mm (3⁄8‑in) tip.
3. Pipe out 31⁄2‑cm (13⁄8‑in) round, somewhat flat discs on the prepared baking sheet. Leave some space for the cookies to spread slightly. Thwack the baking sheet on the counter a few times to even out the batter.
4. Bake the cookies until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the parchment paper with the cookies to a cooling rack. Leave the cookies on the paper until they are completely cool.
5. If not serving the cookies within a day, freeze them.
6. Yield: about 24 cookies.